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'It Hurts': Japanese-American Community Remembers Painful Past

WEST SACRAMENTO (CBS13) - Black and white video documents a dark day in U.S. history.  The images are decades old, but not forgotten.  Saturday marked 80 years since tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans were incarcerated and interrogated at wartime concentration camps.

"We've been able to carry on the legacy, a lot of the things that happened to us," said Christine Umeda.

Umeda shared her story in West Sacramento as Mayor Martha Guerrero proclaimed Saturday, Feb. 19, as a "Day of Remembrance."  Umeda is one of roughly 120,000 Japanese-Americans forced from their homes and sent to internment camps to be kept in isolation during World War II over concerns of their ties to the enemy.  Many of them were citizens born in America.

"Two weeks after we were incarcerated, I was separated from my family. I came down with pneumonia and that facility didn't have medical," Umeda said.

Janice Luszczak is the President of the Sacramento Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League.

"It hurts. I saw it in my parents," Luszczak told CBS13.  "They rarely talked about it, but when they did, I could see the fear. I could see that they were still afraid that the government was going to come after them."

Fear lead to perseverance for many now determined to share their stories so history doesn't repeat itself.

"A four-year-old being separated from their parents. That's pretty bad and I experienced it. That has left a long-lasting impact on me and my life," said Umeda.

Luszczak says although difficult to talk about, it's critical generations are told about the atrocities or they will happen again.

"If people don't talk about it, we forget about it," said Luszczak.

It wasn't until forty years after the internment camps that a committee appointed by Congress found the reasons behind the executive order were racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and failure of political leadership.

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